One of my favorite things about the new year approaching is the chance to look back and be proud of the one that just passed.  So in that spirit, here are the 5 most popular posts that have appeared on this blog in the 2011 school year, of which we are very proud:

5) Are You Competitive Enough to Make it In America?

Mohammed writes about how difficult he's found the academics in America so far:

There comes a night when you have a couple of projects for different classes, a paper, and an exam to study for.  And that night you ask yourself, ?What did I get myself into

Oh, but don't worry:

I?m not trying to intimidate you, but you should know what it really is to study in the States.  One thing I can promise you all, it is worth all the hard work you give into it.

4) Why You Will Gain 10 Pounds in America (and How to Lose it Again)

Tara before and after photo

Tara explains how eating an American diet and being around American girls led her to accidentally put on some weight.

She also annoys us all with pictures of herself when she gained weight in which she still looks so skinny, that when I first posted the story I labeled them as showing her after she lost it again!

3) What Does It Mean to "Be American" As a Chinese Student?

Qian looks back at how she struggled to find her place in American life, not wanting to segregate herself from American friends, but not feeling comfortable in typical college situations like alcohol-fueled parties. She tried it both ways, but eventually found a peaceful middle ground for herself:

I realized what I really have learned and gained from the past three and half years studying in the United States is that ?the American dream? refers to being independent and determined ? knowing what you want and insisting on it until you achieve your dreams.

2) How Old is too Old to Start College?

Nola Ochs oldest college graduate

When Ryan started studying in the U.S. at age 22, he was worried he might be too old to begin college.  But he says he learned that there's no such thing.

If right now anyone asked me if age is a problem, I would answer with great confidence: ?Age is just a number. Don?t worry, be happy."

1) American Culture: Out of the Movies and Into Daily Reality

Cristiana explains how the fall of the Soviet Union when she was little meant that she grew up as Western pop culture began permeating and shaping Romanian society.

This world was brought to life five years ago, in 2006, when I visited the United States for the first time. When a salesman in a fish market asked me ?How are you doing, sweetie I was thrilled and amazed. It felt as if he had just emerged from the TV screen and spoke to me, or I had just crawled into the TV and met him.

She shares her excitement at experiencing all her American firsts - riding a rollercoaster, getting a Chinese takeout - and asks:

...if American and international students often grow up watching the same American shows, how culturally different are we? If students from different countries are influenced by the same media, are we really different or do we have more in common than we believe?